February 5, 2017 – Salt and light, fulfilled and fulfilling

Epiphany 5   February 5, 2016   Psalm 111, Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-21; Leviticus 14:1-4; 15:8-12; Matthew 5:13-20   Salt and light, fulfilled and fulfilling ************************************************************** We’re back on the mountain, listening, as Jesus continues his Sermon on the mount, telling us: “You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world…” Notice he doesn’t say ‘you’re about to become salt of the earth,’ or ‘pretty you’re soon going to be light of the world.’ He says we’re already salt for the earth, light for the world… Salt, the main preservative and prime flavoring for food in those days. Light, the first thing God creates in the beginning. The one thing we need most to be able to see. (Along with eyes to see.)  If salt should lose its flavor its good for nothing. (If salt should lose its flavor, its not salt anymore, anyway…) Don’t be hiding your light under a bushel basket. Let your light of faith, hope, and love shine like a city on a hill… Let your good works be visible, so all will give glory to our Father in heaven. Jesus is mixing metaphors a little, but I think we’re with him, so far. (Am I right?) But what does Jesus mean by, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven?” If Jesus means we’ve got to beat the super bowl champions of religion at their own game, we could be in trouble. It’s game time, and I’m not sure we know all the play book yet… But as we read on in Matthew’s gospel we learn–even though scribes and Pharisees are thought to be stars in the religion league–they’re missing the whole point of the gospels. Later, in Matthew (ch 23), Jesus says “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says “woe to you scribes and Pharisees” six more times, building his point by point critique and letting us know these guys really don’t understand at all. But doesn’t “righteousness” mean doing everything by the book? And aren’t the scribes and Pharisees experts on The Book? Righteousness does mean living right by God’s word. But anyone who is absolutely sure they themselves are the leading experts… are by definition not nearly as expert as they think. Biblical righteousness gets it root meaning from the righteousness of God – the justice, integrity, faithfulness, steadfast love, and overall rightness-beyond-measure that’s all part of who God is. Jesus more than anyone on earth knows the meaning of righteousness – knows our Father has fixed the game in advance for the poor in Spirit, the broken-hearted, the meek, the merciful… the blessings he told us about last week… It’s God’s own righteousness that defines who God wants us to be… Meaning, most of all, in right relationship with God and neighbor. God doesn’t expect us to be star athletes. But God does expect that like good athletes, we show up for every practice, every game, all God asks us to do. I think we know this. Like the Patriots or any good team, I think we know our need for daily practice of our faith. And thanks be to God, the kingdom of heaven is not a contest...

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February 8, 2015 – By all means save some

Isaiah 40:21-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Mark 1:29-39 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Si-mon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. 1 Corinthians 9:16-27 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make...

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February 9, 2014 – Epiphany 5

Epiphany 5 Feb 9, 2014 (Isaiah 58:1-1—see below2)  Matthew 5:13-20  Salt and light ******************************************************* Matthew 5:13-20 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ******************************************** For the first thousand years or so, Valentines’ Day was a day of remembrance for Christian martyrs, at least three of them (all) named Valentine. Emperor Claudius II tried to convert the first of these saintly Valentines to state-sponsored Roman paganism. St Valentine then tried to convert the Emperor to Christian faith – and was sent to prison and executed as a result. ‘Happy Saint Valentines Day’ was probably not a greeting given casually in our first millennia of Valentine’s Days. Centuries pass. Times change. St Valentine the Martyr Day also goes through changes. By the late middle ages Valentines Day is starting to mix and mingle with birds and bees and romantic love. The first hand-made Valentines Day cards begin to appear. Another four or five centuries pass. In the early 1800’s, as the first inexpensive postage stamps come along, soon also comes mass-produced greeting cards in England, then America. A mass-market Valentines’ Day greeting card industry springs up. The make-over of Valentines Day goes into overdrive. The rest is history… Now anyone even thinking about romantic love better be aware: get ready to be burned at the stake if you haven’t purchased proper products by February 14. Happy Valentines’ Day. And I hope this is not a good metaphor for church history… But when we were young and head-over-heels in love with Jesus, we the church were willing to climb every mountain, even risk dying for Jesus… Now it’s so much easier to go on-line and click… and text each other… Happy Valentines’s Day instead. It’s not so easy… to go up the mountain with Jesus and listen as he tells us – “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world…. I’ve come to fulfill, not abolish the law and prophets. Don’t set aside any of the law and prophets…” (including our strong message from Isaiah...

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